Swedes in the French Foreign Legion – they fought – they fell – watch the movie

Sometimes a movie with photos and text can bring a lot when it comes to understand a subject. In this case I decided to do a short video about those Swedes who fought and fell for the French Foreign legion in the Great War. I also chose to include some of the other Swedes who participated and survived.

You can find the video in the website area to the right. Thank you for watching.

Visit the Swedes

I have now developed some new functions on my webpage and now you can find the possibility to use the links about the soldiers in the Main menu, and through those find that the list are searchable and can be filtered.

I can be a nice function for those who are visiting the FWW battlefield cemeteries and want to know how many Swedish born soldiers there are in that specific cemetery.

Below you find a screenshot of how it looks now.

The links in the screenshot below are now updated with new functions.

Do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

Guidebook on it’s way.

When I started this project, I said to myself that one day I will write a book about my research. During the process it has turned out that it will probably be several books, and maybe one book in the end, about the research in itself.

Right now I am in the middle of producing the first book of several in a serie of guidebooks.

The first book will contain information about those Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell at the Western Front in Belgium. In the book you will be able to follow in the footsteps of the Swedes, where they were born in Sweden to the place where they fell and are buried.

The focus will be on the soldiers and not so much about the battles in which they fought, even if it it will some information about that as well.

Hopefully the book will be finished in the beginning of 2023.

The emigrated soldiers – Where did they live, where did the move?

I have a lot of data in my database, about all, so far, 425 Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell at the Western Front in the Great War. I decided to combine some of the data and put it together in another context.

In this case I have looked up data about where they lived when they were born in Sweden, and to which place they moved to, when they emigrated. I have decided to put the data into Google Earth Map projects, to get a picture of where they lived before they went over to thye Western Front. First out to be finished so far are the soldiers who fought for the American Expeditionary Forces, at this moment 236 soldiers.

You can click on the photo below to reach the project in itself, where you can click on the soldiers names, and see a map over where they lived in Sweden, and in some cases also a photo of the soldier. You have to have Google Earth program installed to be able to see the project.

Still under development

The next project I am working on is putting the Swedish soldiers who emigrated to the British North America (Canada) and fought and fell for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in a similar Google Earth Project, that shows where they lived In Canada before they went over to France. You can reach the project by clicking on the photo below. The Project is still under construction.

I will try to put in all the 92 confirmed canadian soldiers from those 105 I have in my research on the map, and I will try to find and confirm those soldiers that I haven’t been able to confirm through Swedish church books yet.

…And here they fell, those who fought for the Commonwealth

By clicking on the photo you will be taken to my Google Earth project that shows where those Swedish born soldiers, who fought for the commonwealth, fell and are buried. Here you will also find more information about each individual.

In the main menu above you will also find the link “Virtual tour on map” which will take you to some of the projects seen here on this page, but also one who tells you about around 100 Swedish born soldiers who fell in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Just let me know if there are any questions by contacting me thorugh the contact form in the main menu.

A Swedish soldier in 2nd Canadian Tunneling Coy.

During this week I am looking through some names that I haven’t been able to confirm in the Swedish Church books, to actually be those individuals they say they are.

Swedish born soldier Charles Anderson is one of them. If I go back to my created “ww1 Swedish names convention” it can be a Karl Andersson. But both Karl, Carl and the surname Andersson is one of the most common names in Sweden, even back at those times. I decided to try to find more information about him.

This is what I know about our Charles Anderson so far. He claim to be born in Helsingborg in Sweden in December 29, 1888. In his Canadian registration forms he doesn’t mention any Next of Kin from his family, only a friend named Pete Mcdonald. Further down in his papers he is writing his Military Will to a Miss Lydia Smith, Hastings street West No 5, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. There is no information about the relation between Charles And Lydia.

The only thing I can use in this case is the Place of Birth (PoB) as he says is Helsingborg, and also his Date of Birth (DoB). I have found one individual born in Helsingborg, with the correct DoB, in Helsingborg, with the name Charles, and also has some similar notes in the church book, which I so often find on other soldiers that I have in my database.

He is a sailor, as many Swedish born soldiers were, before they went over to their new home countries and became soldiers to fight in the Great War. There is also some notes about that he is absent. He is also removed from the files in Helsingborgs Naval Corps, due to his absence.

His name is Charles Otto Waldemar Jörgenson. Right now it is only one of his names, Charles, DoB and PoB that matches this Charles Anderson. I have tried to find more information about this Charles Otto Waldemar, but it has been difficult. Maybe he finally stopped in Canada and decided to become a citizen after all his travels around the world? We will probably never know. One more document that may indicate that this is Charles Anderson is the registration of his death. In the Swedish Church books he is finally declared dead in 1943, which can explain that his relatives never received any information about his death, as they were not mentioned as Next of Kin.

Even if Charles Anderson is Charles Otto Waldemar or not, I have looked into his military service. Charles served as a soldier in 2nd Canadian Tunneling Coy, as I understand also was a part of 2nd canadian Division. The unit were formed in Alberta and British Columbia and this Company moved to France and into the Ypres sector for instruction. Shortly afterwards, in April 1916, relieved 172nd Company between Tor Top, Armagh Wood and St Eloi. (link)

When reading the diary from the date of Charles Anderson death, which is March 10, 1918, it is mentioned that one O.R (Other Ranks) is killed that day, and that person is according to the diary buried in Wieltje, Nort-East of Ieper, Belgium. Charles is buried at Wieltje at Oxford Road Cemetery. Charles can be the O.R that is mentioned in the diary. In the diary it is also mentioned some places where the unit worked those actual days. Those places are named “Bremen” and “Jackdaw”.

If I search for those places in some trench maps I find “Bremen Redoubt” a bit East of Wieltje, which could mean that they moved to that area and worked. This must be just before the German Spring Offensive which starts March 21. The other place, “Jackdaw” is connected to several places, mainly in the Zillebeke area. Below you can see some snippets from some trench maps, but not from the exact period in 1918. You can also see a map showing the area which the Germans took back in the Spring Offensive, marked with red lines, and also a red marked area which explains the area of the other trench maps.

I really hope I can find more information about this Charles Anderson, if he is connected to Charles Otto Waldemar or not, future will tell. The work in the tunnels must have been very stressful, especially during those countermeasures against German tunnel diggers. They performed a very dangerous work.

As mentioned above, Charles Anderson is buried at Oxford Road Cemetery. He was granted leave and returned to his duty February 11th, 1918, and one month later he was killed by shrapnel. I will visit him later on this summer, to take photos of the area where he worked and where he is buried. May Charles rest in peace.

Swedes reburied at home

I have now extended my research to also include those Swedes who fought on the Western Front, fell there and were buried there, but later on reburied in Sweden, as their relatives wanted their sons to come home to the mother soil.

You will find it in the “soldiers” link in the main menu. So far I have only located photos of the headstones in Sweden from three of the soldiers, but I hope I will locate more of them, when visiting their old home parish. Hopefully they will still be standing there.

The brave Dane

In my research I cover Swedish born soldiers, but quite often I find other soldiers who are born in other Nordic countries, and it is always interesting to put the data that I have found into a context which makes the events more interesting from a historical perspective.

Like in this case. I was skimming through some casaulty cards from those who fell in the Great War when they fought for the American Expeditionary Forces.

I found this card from a Danish born soldier, John Rees. The thing that cought my eye was the short description about his bravery in battle.

He was awarded for extraordinary heroism in action, September 29, 1918, when he fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He survived the specific situation, but could have been part of those who supported 32nd Division in the area around the German Kriemhilde-Stellung, when he fell in October 9, 1918.

For his actions he received the Distinguished Service Cross, and the the words below is attached to this recognition.

In my mind I ask myself if any of those Swedish born soldiers, who also fought the same day as John Rees, and also in the same unit, 91st Division, 361st Regiment, AEF, knew about eachother. Maybe they participated in the same attacks, in the area south of Gegnes, and saw or heard any of those heroic actions John Rees went through? Sadly those Swedes fell in the situation that day of September 29, 1918.

Those three Swedes were Carl A Nelson, Carl M Carlson and Claus E Nygren. Below you see a screenshot from my project at Google Earth, where the unit is assessed to have been that day.

There are some documents that connects John Rees to Denmark, and I have found them on Ancestry. There is also some deviating facts in these archives, and these wrong facts are later on transferred to other sites, which makes it a bit difficult to confirm the data. His father’s name is mentioned on the casualty card, which I also find the facts about emigration. the The Danish town of Them in Salten, Jutland, Denmark, just south of the town of Silkeborg is also mentioned. It looks like he left Denmark from Copenhagen in 1914.

John Rees is buried at the American Cemetery in Meuse-Argonne Below there is a photo of John, and in some archives this photo is connected to his name, but I can’t fully confirm this.

We will never know if this Dane knew any of those Swedes who fought together that day, but may all of these Nordic soldiers rest in peace.

Archive detective work, again.

This friday evening I decided to scan some digitized newspapers from Australia, and with heavy eyelids after a hectic workday I scan it quite easily, and finding only names that I know from before. My main goal is to scan for Swedes that participated in the Dardanelles fightings, as I have a few of them already in my database. Suddenly I see a name that I will look a bit more into.

Walter Natanael Peterson, it says also Sweden, died of wounds.

Strange, I can’t remember that I have read the name Natanael before in my project, but of course, I could have missed him. In a strange way I put the data that I have in my research, in my head. And you know if you find something new. Strange to remember those things, but not remember names of colleagues at work … or maybe not.

I decide to look him up in the National Archives of Australia, and I find him quite easy by his name, Walter Natanael. It says that he is born in North America, in Brookland, a part of the city Washington. An American subject, but the relatives are stated to be in Stockholm. It could so be, but I decide to search for him in other Swedish Archives.

As you can see in the picture above it says that the name of one of his relatives is “Guhin”. Never heard that name before. I can barely see it but it says that his mother is Carolina. I take those names with me in my search in the Swedish archives.

Not very successful when it comes to find anything with Walter Natanael, that suits the age he has stated in the papers. I think he must be born around 1894, and that is useful in further search. (year 1917 minus 23, as he is 23 in maybe July, August, 1917)

I decide to go back again to the Australian archive under his profile, and I the find some interesting facts. I still don’t know if he is born in Sweden or not.

Ah, his name is not Walter Natanael, it is actually Valdemar Natanael, very good lead in further investigation.

I go back again to the Swedish archives and use “Valdemar” instead of Walter. I find quite many though, but decide to also use the name of the relatives, especially Carolina.

Interesting. I find a family from Väddö, north of Stockholm, on the east coast. I see quiet fast that the family contains a Valdemar Natanael, a mother, Carolina, and a father, Johan. Johan … maybe Guhin (from above) is Johan? Probably. I feel it is burning now. The surname of the family is also Petterson.

Scanning many pages in the church book within this family, but nothing points to Australia, nothing at all. I see that Natanael is a sailor, like 90% of all the other Swedish soldiers that fought for Australia.

Finally, on the last page, I find what I am looking for, marked with a pencil.

“Australia”, In America” and also “fell in the war in France” written with a pen. Out on the right side is the death date, but it says April 11th, 1918 instead of March 28, 1918. It comes from the Swedish church book, about his death, that says “Fell in the war in France, died in the ambulance”, dated April 11th, 1918. The ambulance is also mentioned in the documents from Australian archives.

He seems to have been a quite stubborn gentleman, it is noted a couple of times that he didn’t obey orders and he was punished for that. I can see hin in front of me, a sailor with tatoos, seen a lot, done a lot, and then sometimes it becomes to much to drink. One time in Capetown and one time at sea.

Walter, or Valdemar, was fighting with the 28th Infantry battalion, Australian Imperial Forces, when he was injured somewhere in Hébuterme area in France, around March 28th, 1918. The diary from the unit tells us about the area between Euston and The Quarry, which you can find on the trench map below. Valdemar where probably somewhere in that area when he fell.

Valdemar is buried at La Cauchie Communal cemetery in the region Pas De Calais, France, just southwest of the town Arras. That part of the cemetery just contain 13 headstones, and no 11 is the stone of Valdemar. The stones are in the end of the cemetery if you walk in from the street, and are located in the village communal cemetery.

Walter was not Walter, he was Valdemar. He was born in Sweden, not in North America. I wonder what it was that made him mention another name, and another location of birth. We will never know that, but this kind of story just gives me more energy to really find our Swedes who fought in the Great War.

May Valdemar rest in peace. I will visit you as soon as I can. We will remember them.

The next phase …

I have now found quite many individuals in my research, who are within my criterias for my project, as you can read more about through the main menu at my front page.

So far I have found 412 Swedish born soldiers who all fell and are buried at the Western Front in Belgium and France.

Through the time I almost have learned to know them, in my hunt for facts about their life and faith, before the made their ulimate sacrifice in the Great War. I will now start to make portraits about as many individuals that I can, which later on will be the base of the material in my book that I am planning to write.

A guidebook, for those who want to walk in the footsteps of those Swedes, and see the areas, know the fights and battles they participated and fell in, and it will be really nice to compile all the info that I have, and probably find new facts, not discovered before.

I realize the magnitude of the work, but at the same time, I feel that I owe them to do this. I will be the one who will bring their history into the light, especially for the Swedes in Sweden today, who I think should learn this, the history of our ancestries, what they actually did, when we said that “Sweden did not participate in the World Wars …”

As a country we did not, but the sons of our country did, for their new countries, or the countries they supported, voluntarily.

I will here give you an example of some facts that maybe will be in the portraits of the individuals, a letter from a father who is longing for his son, who died many years before the letter was written …

The letter is found below. The translation into english is found under the letter.

From right to left:

Svineviken, April 28, 1920

Dear Andrew (Anders)

I so hoped would be my son, who from I haven´t heard anything since the War ended, I beg you to write a couple of lines to me so I can hear that you are alive. I am alive and having the health but me and Klara are separated now because it was very hard to manage the hard times during the War, which were present for so long. I have worked in the Feldspar Mine for a year. I now end the letter with a dear greeting to you, good bye for now. My address is August Johansson …

PS. After a lot of trouble, has August Johansson through the Ministry of foreign affair found the address, which August use to write to Andrew (Anders) – August is now working at the Feldspar Mine in Brattås in Svineviken. Andrew has to remember now, to write to his father to make him happy.

Svineviken, May 10th, 1920.

S Martinsson.

Imagine to write to your son around 2,5 years after his death, dont knowing if he is alive or not.

Andrew John Johansson (Anders Johan Johansson), Johansson from his father Johan August Olsson, even if he says August Johansson in the letter. Andrew was born in Tegneby, close to the city of Gothenburg, quite close to Svineviken mentioned in the letter, October 23, 1979.

Andrew became a sailor, and there is not any date stated when he left for Australia, but he made his Statutory Declaration in Adelaide, March 1911, and he arrived to Australia from London in 1908. Probably he left Sweden around that year as well.

Andrew joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in Alexandria in June 1916, and proceeded to France. Andrew fought for the 50th Infantry battalion in the Third battle of Ypres and fell October 11, 1917. Andrew is buried in Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Belgium.

For some reason I have missed to take a photo of his headstone when I was in the area, but I will do it next time when in Belgium. May Andrew rest in peace.